Body psychotherapy (somatic psychotherapy) works with the body and mind together, honouring the fact that emotional and mental relational problems are experienced not only with the mind, but with the body too. More and more neuroscience research is emerging that supports this view that body psychotherapy has known intuitively and experientially for many years. Consequently, body psychotherapy is increasingly gaining recognition as being at the cutting edge of mental health interventions, especially when it comes to trauma.
Problems in daily life may be what is experienced now, but the underlying cause may have been imprinted on body and mind at a much earlier time. Many problems can be traced back to early childhood traumas, which are “somatised”, or held in the body. These early traumas may not necessarily be overtly traumatic events such as abuse or injury in childhod; trauma is also now understood to be caused by accumulative “everyday” problems, such as those which are so widespread in our society that we have become conditioned to believe that they are normal.
How does Body Psychotherapy help?
These traumas can be difficult to work with through talk alone, and can be more easily reached when the body perspective is included in the therapeutic process. This can clearly be felt when we consider how our shoulders become tense when we are stressed, our bodies hunch over when we feel defeated, we hold our breath when trying not to cry, and our hearts beat faster when we are excited. All experiences, relationships and communication clearly have a physical dimension, as bodies respond to things that are upsetting, frightening or pleasing (for example). That is why a combination of bodywork and talk can have a deep effect.
Body psychotherapists pay a lot of attention to the connections between the way clients think and their bodies feel, between physical sensations and emotions, and to what is experienced in the body in the course of conversation between therapist and client.
There are a range of body psychotherapy. Typically, a session could include any of the following along with talking: touch, movement, massage, art, dance, embodiment exercises. It may take place seated in chairs, on cushions, lying on a massage table, or the floor. This will all be discussed with the client in advance and will be informed by what the issues the client comes with and what is arising during the session.
Who benefits from body psychotherapy?
The relational habits that we learned in our early life, as well as the strategies that we developed to cope with stresses, traumas and problems as children can be unhelpful for us as adults. Anxiety, depression, relationship issues and low self-esteem can be the result. If an adult client feels that they are held back or stuck, but cannot exactly pinpoint why or are struggling to change things and move forward, then body psychotherapy may help release old fears, tensions and patterns, and explore new ways of relating to themselves, others and the world.